Now it's up to the people, the voters.
Litigation in the Circuit Court by 21 municipalties in Pinellas County to stop amendments to the county charter to be voted on next Tuesday failed. The court decided the people should decide.
Judge Robert Beach ruled that the cities, which initiated the lawsuit in August, would not be harmed if the questions stay on the ballot.
There are indications that the 21 cities' action will go forward if the key amendments that rob them of power are approved.
And the question voters will determine is will the Pinellas County government be dominant, subjugating the cities and allowing Pinellas to become a mid-Florida version of Miami-Dade?
Pinellas County's administrator, Steve Spratt, was brought here with the idea of making the county supreme with the cities playing a minor, and possible, insignificant role.
This county is different among its Florida brothers inasmuch as it has more municipalities than any other county. Most Florida counties are rural, and have one major city, the seat of government.
Pinellas grew differently, and the cities pride themselves on their individuality.
Now comes the test next Tuesday - will Pinellas remain a county of individual cities with some modicum of autonomy or will the county rule supreme?
There are seven referendum questions pertaining to changes in the county charter.
A couple of them go directly to a shift of power heavy weighted to the county.
Key among them is Question 4 which eliminates the dual referendum which is now in law but has actually never been implemented. Nevertheless it is a safeguard should it be needed.
In short, it requires the voters in a given city to approve a countywide referendum question in order for it to apply to that city.
In other words, voters in a city can opt out of what would become law elsewhere in the county. This opt out provision protects an individual city from the effect of a charter amendment that would be law in every other city.
Questions 5,6 and 7 relate to annexations, and would make it more difficult for cities to annex property. Again, a yes vote on these questions would strengthen the county's hand and weaken cities' ability to execute annexations.
The first three questions do not go to the issue of taking municipal powers away.
Only Indian Rocks Beach, Redington Beach and Dunedin failed to join the cities in the legal fight against the county.
That court battle resulted in defeat for the cities last Wednesday with the ruling that the questions should go to the voters.
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